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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 10/5/2016

Guests: Steve Cortes, James Pindell, Neil Levesque, John Stanton, Jay Newton-Small

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 5, 2016 Guest: Steve Cortes, James Pindell, Neil Levesque, John Stanton, Jay Newton-Small


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

Well, it`s an interesting challenge to decide in real time who`s won a political debate. But if you accept the challenge, as I have, you better do it straight. Don`t pretend to be a judge if you`re not willing to accept the responsibility of judging.

Well, last night, I called it for Pence right off the bat. He acted like a grown-up. Kaine seemed overwrought, on the other hand, and mostly upset at what Pence was saying. It`s as if Kaine couldn`t stand hearing anything said well about Donald Trump, couldn`t stand hearing anything said bad about Hillary Clinton. It was emotional.

Pence was solid, if often misleading. Kaine was forever trying to get his point in, sometimes successfully but not impressively.

But if you think this is how I look at the two of them generally, you couldn`t be more wrong. My job isn`t to say who I preferred on the issues going into the debate last night. It`s to say who I thought did well and advanced his position during it.

Well, after Trump`s bad week last week, the big question now is whether Pence`s strong performance last night was enough to reverse the momentum toward Clinton before Trump and his face -- and her face off again Sunday night. So they got a few days to do this.

Will Trump be able to exploit his running mate`s performance last night to get things headed back in his direction?

Well, throughout last night, Tim Kaine tried repeatedly, as I said, to engage with Pence, attempted to hold him accountable for everything Donald Trump has said and done over the course of the campaign.

But Pence delivered an unwavering performance effectively side- stepping Kaine`s attacks while sticking to his talking points. As "The New York Times" noted, "Pence dodged, deflected and demurred, deciding, it seemed, that all the fires that Mr. Trump has set in the past year could not be doused in a single night." That`s good writing.

And as "Time" magazine pointed out, "To some observers, it was a sign that the independent -- the Indiana governor`s debate strategy was also designed to protect his own political future in the event of a Trump loss this year."

Well, Trump didn`t hesitate to praise Pence, by the way, at a rally this afternoon, citing Pence`s performance last night as an example of -- guess what? Donald Trump`s judgment.

This is Trump on Trump, sort of, on...


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mike Pence did an incredible job, and I`m getting a lot of credit because that`s really my first so- called choice. That was my first hire, as we would say in Las Vegas.


TRUMP: I`d would argue that Mike had the single most decisive victory in the history of vice presidential debates. I believe that.


TRUMP: And last night, America also got to look firsthand at my judgment. And that was judgment.


MATTHEWS: Katy Tur is an expert on Trump`s ego, and it was on full display. Katy, here we have a guy instead of saying, you know, I got a great running mate. The guy did a hell of a job last night. He`s bucking me up. I had a terrible performance. He had a good one. Instead, he says, Well, just this goes to show that I`m a great man and I know how to pick `em.

Anyway, your thoughts about Trump and his reaction to last night`s strong performance, I believe, by Mike Pence.

KATY TUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you`re right. He did take credit for Pence, saying that he should get credit because he picked Pence as his running mate. It was reminiscent of Donald Trump taking credit for a number things on the campaign trail, also reminiscent of Donald Trump talking about himself for 30 minutes while he was supposed to be introducing Mike Pence as his running mate officially. Also, the tweets where he congratulated himself on predicting things like terror attacks both in Orlando and when he talked about the New York bombings at a rally in Colorado.

Donald Trump is never going to say that he did a poor job on anything or that maybe he should have improved on something, frankly. That`s just not something that he`s done in this campaign. (INAUDIBLE) I don`t believe it`s anything he`s really done during his business career. So you`re not going to have him come out and say, Mike Pence excelled in areas that I need on improve on.


TUR: But the reality is, is that Pence did. Where Governor Pence was calm, Donald Trump was erratic during his debate. Where Pence was able to deflect, Donald Trump was easily baited by Hillary Clinton. Where Pence was able to turn the conversation into more favorable territory -- pivot, if you will, spin the conversation, start talking about a different subject entirely than he was asked -- that`s not something that Donald Trump was able to do during his first debate.

Looking forward, it`s going to be interesting to find out how and if Donald Trump takes any of his running mates`s performance to heart and adjusts for his next debate, which is on Sunday.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and I guess that`s the question we`re going to get to. Is this going to be an opportunity for Trump to exploit the success of his running mate last night, but also to learn from it. And it seemed to me, in a way, that -- well, I don`t want to knock Kaine. I like the guy. But Kaine was acting more like Trump last night. I mean, he was the one jumping in and out, interrupting, as you know. Go ahead. Your thoughts. Not mine, yours. Go ahead.

TUR: Yes, I think you`re right. I think what the RNC was trying to capitalize on today was how many times that Tim Kaine interrupted Governor Pence. It`s almost like the "I`m rubber and you`re glue" campaign strategy. Every time Donald Trump is knocked for something, Donald Trump or his campaign or the Republican Party, seems to turn that around and then insult the opponent with that same criticism or take that criticism and throw it at their opponent.

In this case, they did have -- they did have a little reason to do so, at least, when it came to Tim Kaine. He did repeatedly interrupt Governor Pence. Donald Trump, though, repeatedly interrupted Hillary Clinton during the first debate.

In -- ultimately, though, Chris, these vice presidential debates, while interesting to us, don`t matter so much to the viewer and don`t matter so much to the voter at home. They`re very much voting for the top of the ticket, and these are two candidates with large personalities and large presences.

So the idea that one way or another, how the VP reacted, behaved, or went off on policy discussions -- that`s not really going to factor that much into whether a voter decides to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

The reality is, Governor Pence looked pretty good on that stage last night, and many are saying that he was auditioning, essentially, for 2020, to run on his own ticket for president in 2020, whereas Tim Kaine was auditioning to be VP in 2020.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s an opinion. I don`t agree with it. I think that 40 million people last night maybe...

TUR: Some people were saying it. Some people were saying it. That`s what I heard.

MATTHEWS: That`s an opinion you have. Let me tell you my opinion. When 40 million people or so watch a television program, they form an opinion about the ticket.

I remember years ago voting for Humphrey because I liked Muskie. So sometimes, you look for an excuse. Now, if Republicans are feeling uneasy about Trump, which many should be, they may say to themselves, You know, I think this guy Pence is solid. I feel a little better about voting for Trump now.

I do think it makes a difference. And any time you`re talking about audiences of 40, 50 million people, which we may have last night -- I`m not sure. We don`t know the number yet. But that`s an enormous amount of people paying attention. That means -- all it means is a couple percent of those millions of people watching, and it changes things. I think it`s about the enormity.

You know, we only get about 10 million people a night on cable. But when all of a sudden, you have one of these debates, it blossoms to 40 to 80, and all of a sudden, people who never show up for political shows show up for this.

So I`m going to with you, Katy Tur. I think it does matter.

TUR: Well, and I think -- you know, I think you`re -- I think you`re -- you`re not -- you`re not incorrect there. And I think what you have in terms of this campaign season, there is a bloc of people that just don`t like either candidate.

MATTHEWS: Yes. We know that.

TUR: And are they going to see either Senator Tim Kaine or Governor Mike Pence as a way to enable them to feel more comfortable...

MATTHEWS: To both.

TUR: ... voting for the top of the ticket? This is about enthusiasm. Can Donald Trump turn out more people than Hillary Clinton can? Right now, his base is white men without a college degree. He needs to find a way to appeal to women. He needs to find a way to appeal to moderate Republicans. Maybe Governor Pence would be able to help him do that.

But remember, Governor Pence is a very conservative Christian, who has been on the very conservative side of abortion politics in the past and does not necessarily appeal to women in this country...


TUR: ... many women in this country. And in terms moderates, Governor Pence is not a moderate, either. So it might only -- it could do some to help him gain some of those Christian conservatives that Donald Trump might not have in his corner, but I`m not entirely sure it`s going to get those moderates and women...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...

TUR: ... which is what he needs right now.

MATTHEWS: OK. I want to bring the other guys in, but thanks, Katy. But here`s my last point. Among Newt Gingrich and Giuliani and Trump, they got nine wives among the three of them. They need some sort of more conservative Christian or whatever, traditional religious kind of person to come in and say, You`re OK, because those other surrogates are not helping Trump in the heartland. That`s my thinking.

Giuliani and Newt are not helping Trump. He needs somebody with a more traditional -- I`m not making a value judgment here -- more traditional, rural, perhaps, thinking about religion and et cetera and behavior, human behavior to back him up. He`s not getting the right surrogates out there.

Thank you, Katy Tur.

In his harshest attack of the night last night, of course -- this was memorable -- Tim Kaine invoked the name of former president Ronald Reagan in an effort to portray Trump as too darn dangerous to serve as commander- in-chief.

Let`s watch this very strong strike against Trump.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ronald Reagan said something really interesting about nuclear proliferation back in the 1980s. He said the problem with nuclear proliferation is that some fool or maniac could trigger a catastrophic event. And I think that`s who Governor Pence`s running mate is, exactly who...


KAINE: ... President Reagan warned us...

PENCE: Senator -- Senator, that was even beneath you and Hillary Clinton, and that -- that`s pretty low.


MATTHEWS: That`s even beneath you!


MATTHEWS: That was genteel. Anyway, thank you, Ronald Reagan for coming on. It`s always great to have you on. He`s author, and of course, MSNBC political analyst. We also have Steve Cortes, surrogate for the Trump campaign. Steve, I think it`s great.

I want to talk with Ron and get a little point of view, and both you guys mix it up here. Last night and then next Sunday -- I`m looking forward to St. Louis -- "Meet me in St. Louis," as Judy Garland said -- meet me in St. Louis next Sunday night.

Will Trump learn and exploit the strong performance by Mike Pence or not? You`re first, Ron.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don`t think that he will learn. I think Donald Trump is Donald Trump, and you always get Donald Trump. I don`t think -- if he was going to learn, he`d have done so by now. He`s been doing this for quite some time now, running for president, and he hasn`t bothered to learn anything about anything. So apparently, he doesn`t think he needs to learn anything, and I don`t think he will by next week, no.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that was too strong a shot or too low a shot for Tim Kaine to say that he was the guy that your dad, when he was talking about some maniac getting hold of a nuclear button, now has a face, his name`s Donald Trump?


MATTHEWS: Do you think that was too personal to say he`s a nut case with a chance to blow up the world?

REAGAN: "Maniac" might have been a little over the top...


MATTHEWS: That`s my word.

REAGAN: ... but basically, I think he was correct. And I`m quite sure that my father would be appalled by the Donald Trump candidacy, so in case that was where you were going with this.

MATTHEWS: No, I -- I`m always going there because it`s amazing how progressives are lining up at the altar of Ronald Reagan this year, in the strangest kind of way!


MATTHEWS: Let me bring in -- let me bring in Steven. Steven, your thoughts about last night and next Sunday because I really want to know how this leads from one presidential debate. I`ll give credit to Katy Tur, who just said it`s the presidential candidates that matter.

STEVE CORTES, TRUMP NATIONAL HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: Right. And listen, appreciate you having me on, Chris. And Ron, I pleasure to be on with you. You know, I grew up -- my formative years were in the 1980s, and I`m a political nerd. So most of my buddies, on their locker at school, they would have either Joe Montana or perhaps Pam Anderson or some other fetching girl. I had a picture of your father on my locker at school! So I`m very proud to be on with you today. And I will say this...

REAGAN: I`m not sure you needed to admit that, Steve.


CORTES: Well, I just did on national television, so...

REAGAN: I appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: Well, for it.

CORTES: And listen -- and listen, here`s the thing...

MATTHEWS: We`re past the beefcake. We`re on to the politics.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go.

CORTES: Is Donald Trump Ronald Reagan? No. There will never be another Ronald Reagan. There`ll never be another Winston Churchill.

However, are the scenarios similar? And I would argue vociferously they are right now, to the late 1970s. Back then, we had slow growth. We had an America that was lost in the world. We had a dangerous world. We had a crisis of confidence. We had a malaise, self-described at that time by the president -- then president, Jimmy Carter.

I think we have a very similar scenario right now, and we also have another outsider. We have Donald Trump, who is saying, I am ready to smash the political class! I`m ready to smash the crony capitalist system that K Street has constructed in Washington, D.C. And guess what? The people are rallying to that cry.

And so I think it`s working so far and it will continue to work into November because the macro issues of prosperity and security are on our side!


CORTES: ... status quo...

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s not working. What you`re talking about is not the message of these debates. It`s not the message of the news every night. It`s not about -- it`s about Machado. It`s about a guy that ran the Miss Universe contest who wanted to be Hugh Hefner. It`s all about his social life. He has not been able to escape who he is.

Now, you`re talking about -- I agree with you, there`s a force out there for change. But Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He`s bigger at some points than the discussion...

CORTES: Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... we should be having about change versus the way things are, the status question.

CORTES: Fair point.

MATTHEWS: That`s a great argument you`re making, Steve, but that`s not what Trump`s talking about.

CORTES: Chris...

MATTHEWS: He`s talking about Machado and Miss Universe and all this nonsense he gets involved with. Go ahead.

CORTES: And he should stop doing that, and I think he`s going to, OK? And it`s a -- listen, it`s a fair point. And part of having an outsider and a maverick and a non-politician, it`s mostly an attribute (sic), but it does come with the challenges, which you`re mentioning. And I think it`s a two-edged sword...


CORTES: ... to somebody. But also, he hired Mike Pence. And I do think last night matters for that reason...


CORTES: ... not because the debate itself mattered so much...


CORTES: ... but because he showed the American people, if you`re worried -- and it`s OK to worry. It`s natural to worry about a non- politician. Can you handle the Oval Office and the nuclear button?

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back -- let me go back to Ron. Last night, I remembered Alfred E. Newman of "Mad" magazine. I mean, I`m telling you, every time that Kaine had a shot at Trump`s record, the stuff he`s done, his positions on everything -- nuclear proliferation, everything -- the answer from Pence was, What me worry? I mean, he -- he -- like Alfred E. Newman! He acted like it didn`t happen or I don`t have to talk about it or I got something else to think about. He was the key -- the king of deflection last night! It`s an art!

REAGAN: Yes, he...

MATTHEWS: And not useful perhaps to us, but to him.

REAGAN: Well, I guess it`s useful to him. And I don`t know what else he would have done because some of the things that Donald Trump has said over the last -- well, over the course of the election are really indefensible.


REAGAN: So there was no defending these things. And I think Mike Pence was thinking ahead to his career. And you`d notice that even when he would defend Donald Trump, he would do it without, for the most part, mentioning Donald Trump`s name. He didn`t -- there was no full-throated defense. there. It was as if he didn`t want, you know, any videotape of him to exist when he was talking about Donald Trump because I think he has a feeling that, you know, a few years from now, when he wants to come back and maybe take another run at this thing, he doesn`t want Donald Trump`s stench all over him.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. That`s what I thought. In fact, last night, I thought -- Steve, what was the safer move for your guy, Mike Pence, to defend Trump or attack Hillary? The obvious answer is the safest thing in the world on the Republican side is attack Hillary! One more shot at her ain`t going to -- it`s not going to hurt her much, but it`s certainly going to help the guy who takes the shot.

And you`re laughing because you know it`s true. It`s better to attack...

CORTES: No, no!

MATTHEWS: ... Hillary than defend Trump.

CORTES: I`m not laughing, and it`s not true. What happened is -- well, here`s what happened is Tim Kaine showed up with a laundry list of embarrassing quotes or supposedly embarrassing quotes...

MATTHEWS: Were they true?

CORTES: ... about -- about Donald Trump, and when...

MATTHEWS: Were they true?

CORTES: A couple were, some weren`t, and...

MATTHEWS: And which one wasn`t true?

CORTES: And what Mike Pence did...

MATTHEWS: Which ones -- just a minute, Steve. I`ll give you a minute here. What did Mike -- what did Tim Kaine say that wasn`t true?

CORTES: I`ll tell you one, and this matters a lot to me as the son of an immigrant and as a Latino. He said -- and they`ve said this all along - - they keep saying that Donald Trump is a racist. And that is the sign...

MATTHEWS: Did he say that last night?

CORTES: ... of an intellectually failing campaign!


MATTHEWS: I don`t think Tim Kaine said that last night. Go ahead.

CORTES: Well, he said that we -- he said that Donald Trump said that Mexicans are all rapists and murderers. And that`s ridiculous! He never said that. Are there some illegal immigrants who are? Are there dangerous illegal immigrants? Absolutely, there are! And I think they need to gone yesterday.

And there are sanctuary cities and there are people literally suffering and dying because of that policy. But are most Mexicans? Of course not. Or most Latinos. Of course not. Latinos are a treasure to this country, as are immigrants in general.

So I think that -- what he showed up with, Tim Kaine, was a laundry list and said, I dare to you defend one through ten.


CORTES: And what Pence said is, I will defend broad principles, but I`m not going to go -- I`m not down your rabbit hole!

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, here`s -- here`s a -- here`s not a rabbit hole but a Google search (INAUDIBLE) and you can do it, too. Everybody (INAUDIBLE) their keyboards, do this now.

Just look up Google. Take Google, the search engine, and look up two words, right, Mexicans and rapists, and see if the word "Trump" doesn`t show up, as well. Just betting it will. That`s all I have to say, Steve Cortes. It will, and you`re wrong. It will show up. He`s the one to attach the word rapist to Mexicans. Nobody in history has ever done that! He did it, and you know it.

Thank you, Steve Cortes.

CORTES: (INAUDIBLE) not know that.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ron Reagan. It`s great to -- (INAUDIBLE) all have -- you have a great tan. (INAUDIBLE) from here you`ve been, Ron!

Anyway, coming up, Democrats are starting to feel optimistic about winning the White House, but how about the Senate? We`re going to talk a little bit about that. It`s fascinating. This presidential election between Trump and Hillary Clinton is having a huge impact on about five or six seats in the Senate. We`re going to talk about the big five starting tonight.

New Hampshire, two solid candidates are going to have their careers changed by this presidential election. We`re going to talk about that right now. Kelly Ayotte, not a bad Republican, a hawk, though, up against Maggie Hasan, the governor, both popular. This is great stuff. And that`s ahead right now.

This is HARDBALL, a place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got new polling now for the key state of Ohio. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new Monmouth poll, Hillary Clinton has a 2-point lead - - she`s in the lead now over Donald Trump. It`s Clinton 44, Trump 42, with Gary Johnson just at 5. That`s a change from recent polling for Ohio. The RealClearPolitics average of all the polls still has Trump up by 2.5 in that state.

OK, without Ohio, Trump would have no path to winning the 270 elector votes he needs to win the president (INAUDIBLE) Ohio is always a must, and it is again this year.

We`ll be right back -- for Republicans.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Through Election Day, we`re going to take a look at the five hottest Senate races across the country, contests that could well change the balance of power in the U.S. Senate come November 8.

And, tonight, we`re starting with the battleground state of little old New Hampshire. In the past two presidential elections, New Hampshire went for President Obama. And in 2014, a good year for Republicans, New Hampshire also reelected two Democrats, Maggie Hassan as governor and Jeanne Shaheen as U.S. senator.

Well, this year`s Senate race is razor-thin up there in the Granite State. Governor Hassan is mounting a tough challenge to first-term Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. And the latest poll shows Hassan with a two-point lead. But that`s just the latest error. And it has very little room for error.

And on Monday night, in their second debate, Senator Ayotte made what many think is a devastating mistake. Here she goes.


SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I would tell a child to absolutely aspire certainly to be their best and to be president and to seek to run for the presidency, absolutely.

QUESTION: Would you -- would you -- again, to the question, would you tell them to be like Donald Trump? Would you point to him as a role model?

AYOTTE: Well, I -- I think that, certainly, there are many role models that we have. And I believe he can serve as president. And so, absolutely, I would do that.

QUESTION: If you believe he can serve as president, why won`t you endorse him?

AYOTTE: Because I have had some disagreements with him. And I have been quite clear about those disagreements.


MATTHEWS: Well, after that debate, Ayotte released a statement saying she misspoke, which she repeated again yesterday.

Here we -- here she goes.


AYOTTE: As I said, I misspoke. I`m sure all of you at one point in your lives have misspoken.

I misspoke. And, certainly, I hope that all of our children aspire to run for president. But I would not hold out either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as good examples. And I wouldn`t hold them out as examples of role models for my children.


MATTHEWS: But just hours after the debate gaffe, Hassan`s team blasted out -- Hassan`s team blasted out this Web video.


QUESTION: Would you tell a child to aspire to be like Donald Trump? Would you point to him as a role model?

AYOTTE: Absolutely, I would do that.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She gained a massive amount of weight. And it was a real problem.

QUESTION: Donald Trump called you Miss Piggy.

ALICIA MACHADO, FORMER MISS UNIVERSE: Yes, Miss Piggy, Miss Housekeeping.

QUESTION: Miss Housekeeping. How did that make you feel?

MACHADO: So sad.

TRUMP: But here`s a woman. And she can`t make it 15 feet to her car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see right there, he suffers from a chronic condition that impairs movement of his arms.

TRUMP: Oh, I don`t know what I said. Oh, I don`t remember.

I would look her right in that fat ugly face of hers.

Blood coming out of her wherever.

QUESTION: Would you tell a child to aspire to be like Donald Trump? Would you point to him as a role model?

AYOTTE: Absolutely, I would do that.


MATTHEWS: Joining me now are two experts in New Hampshire politics. James Pindell is a political reporter with "The Boston Globe" and Neil Levesque is executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm`s great college.

First of all, James and then Neil, what do you make of that? Was that a fair Web ad? Because she didn`t quite say -- she seemed to be trying to say to, Senator Ayotte, to try to say generically if you get to be a president, I guess that means you get to be a role model, without sort of making it personal. And she was desperately trying to get the thread through that needle, James.

JAMES PINDELL, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Well, look, Kelly Ayotte has been running a tightrope this entire campaign about, where exactly does she stand with Donald Trump?

Her official position is that she is supporting him, as in she is voting for him. But she refuses to endorse him. She is right, when you saw in the earlier part of the way that you set this up, that, repeatedly, she has called out Donald Trump. She never endorsed him or anyone in the presidential primary process.

I understand that the Hassan campaign not only is going to do that particular Web ad. There`s another Web ad that came out today, but she is going to run a full TV ad by as early as the early part of next week.

So, this is going to be a pretty big impact on the race in terms of what Hassan is trying to push. But, overall, look, Kellyanne is running against New Hampshire history here this particular year. New Hampshire has been the swingingest swing state in the country for the last 20 years.

During presidential years, it votes Democratic. In the midterm, it votes Republican. She got elected in the midterm of 2010. She is now running against history trying to win in 2016. And the idea that Donald Trump is on the top of the ballot has certainly complicated matters.

MATTHEWS: James, that`s a great -- and, Neil, that`s a great point, because as James said, this great thing about a six-year Senate term is that it lets you get elected in a nonpresidential year, which may help you.

But then the very next test is to go in a presidential year, and you get beaten. It happens so often. It can be the other way around. If you can withstand the test of a presidential test which goes the other direction, you`re pretty strong in the next midterm.

But, anyway, if it weren`t for Donald Trump`s campaign, would Ayotte be the strongest candidate or not? Or would it still be a close call?

NEIL LEVESQUE, SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE: I definitely think she would be the strongest candidate.

Clearly, she misspoke. It wasn`t a good gaffe. Hassan did the same thing about a month ago. She made a gaffe. These candidates are really good, and it is surprising that they would make a mistake. But keep in mind...

MATTHEWS: Well, wait a minute. What`s the right answer? What`s the right answer when you`re asked if the party -- your candidate`s party, your party`s candidate for president, is he a role model or she a role model for your children? What is the right answer in the case of Donald Trump? What is Kelly Ayotte supposed to say?

LEVESQUE: I think she answered it afterwards perfectly, because most Americans see both candidates unfavorable. And both candidates would really not probably be role models for them, which is rather sad.

The fact is, is that she also has to balance this 35 percent of people in New Hampshire who are going to vote for Trump and are committed supporters to him. So, she has got to balance that, too, in order to get on 51. It`s just classic politics. MATTHEWS: James, you`re laughing because she has a problem here. If she supports Trump, she offends a lot of people. If she opposes Trump, she offends the Trump people. And there are a lot of them up there in your state, in that state.

PINDELL: To some degree, I wish you could show you my phone, because, during the debate, it was Democrats nonstop. Did you see that? Did you see that? This is a huge moment.

And then, about two hours later, when Kelly Ayotte put out a statement saying -- renouncing Donald Trump, and then of course Hillary Clinton, then I was getting blown up with people from the right, saying, can you believe that she just dissed Donald Trump? How could she do that?

This is what I`m talking about, this political tightrope that Kelly Ayotte has been on. She lost her footing a little bit there. But certainly she needs -- she is trying to walk this needle.

And the other thing I would say is this. She had a primary just a weeks ago in mid-September. And a lot of people thought that clearly once she got over the hurdle against her primary opponent, she would drop Donald Trump. It is clear by now she`s made the calculation that is not the smart move to do.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, there are going to be a lot of casualties in this election. And she may well be one of them.

Thanks, James Pindell of "The Globe." And thank you, Neil Levesque of Saint Anselm.

We will be looking at the hot Senate races around the country between now and November. This has been a big one and will be a big one on election night in New Hampshire. It will be worth watching.

Up next: Bill Weld wasn`t on the debate stage last night with Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, but the vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party was making news of his own, saying he is now going to the dedicate the rest of his campaign from now to November to making sure Donald Trump doesn`t win. So, what side is he on? It sounds like he`s on Hillary`s side.

Is he still on the side of the Libertarians, or is he just sort of an outlier, an outrider , riding for Hillary? I think he is.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


BONNIE SCHNEIDER, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: I`m meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.

We are tracking Hurricane Matthew, a powerful Category 3 storm right now, 205 miles south-southeast of the Bahamas. But keep in mind it`s 400 southeast of West Palm Beach. Look at the hurricane warnings. We have almost nine million Americans under a hurricane warning right now.

The hurricane watch has been extended to cover the entire Georgia coast. And one of the places that we`re watching very closely, of course, is Florida. Look at this new track that just came in not too long ago. We`re looking at a Category 4 storm.

If it doesn`t make landfall near Space Coast, it is going to get very, very close. With those hurricane-force winds right now extending 45 miles out, just a little bit of a jog to the left can make a huge difference.

And then our focus is more toward the Carolinas to the weekend. But right now, in advance of the storm, people are evacuating, especially the low-lying areas of South Carolina, in advance of dangerous Hurricane Matthew -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: That`s quite a report on the weather down there.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. While most of America was watching the Republican and Democratic vice presidential debates last night -- they go after each other, the candidates -- Bill Weld, the Libertarian V.P. candidate, was busy making some news of his own.

The former governor of Massachusetts told "The Boston Globe" -- quote -- "that he plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks, a strategic pivot aimed at denying Trump the White House and giving himself a key role in helping to rebuild the GOP."

Well, shortly after that article ran, this was posted, Weld assured Libertarian voters -- quote -- "That my L. hat remains firmly in place."

Well, but his statement is particularly telling given the series of high-profile gaffes by his running mate, Gary Johnson, the ones he`s made, including one made here. Let`s watch.


MATTHEWS: Who is your favorite foreign leader?


MATTHEWS: Any -- just name anywhere in the country -- any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to, anybody.

JOHNSON: Shimon Peres. MATTHEWS: No, no, OK. I`m talking about living. Go ahead.


MATTHEWS: You have got to do this. Anywhere. Any continent, Canada, Mexico, Europe over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect.

JOHNSON: I guess I`m having an Aleppo moment, in the former -- former president of Mexico...

MATTHEWS: But I`m giving you the whole world.

JOHNSON: I know, I know, I know, I know.

MATTHEWS: Anybody in the world you like, anybody. Pick any leader.

JOHNSON: The former president of Mexico.

MATTHEWS: No. Which one?

JOHNSON: I`m having a brain -- I`m having a brain...

MATTHEWS: Well, name anybody.




MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC, actually Monday`s NBC poll, Gary Johnson and the Libertarian ticket is polling just about 9 percent of the voters in a four-way race. That`s a lot. Joining me right now for more is MSNBC political analyst and former adviser to Rand Paul Elise Jordan and BuzzFeed bureau chief John Stanton.

Elise, first, what`s going on with Bill Weld? Everybody -- not everything -- most people, you say Bill Weld should be at the top of the ticket. He is a pretty worldly guy. He knows his stuff. He was a very popular governor of Massachusetts, almost knocked off John Kerry for that Senate race. And here he is sort of tooling around with this other guy. But you can`t figure out what he is up to. And now he puts the word out, I`m really out there to make sure Trump doesn`t win.

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, you have to remember that Gary Johnson really had to fight to get Bill Weld as his running mate at the Libertarian Convention.

And Gary Johnson`s argument for Bill Weld was that having Bill Weld along would help propel them on the debate stage, and that, if the ticket didn`t have a place on the debate stage, that they didn`t stand a shot at winning.

And so I think that`s pretty telling, because, at this point, Bill Weld is evaluating what`s going on and has pretty much concluded that there`s no chance at all, and he doesn`t want to play a role in putting someone like Donald Trump, who he considers an authoritarian and the greatest threat on Libertarianism, in the Oval Office.

MATTHEWS: So, John, is that -- do you agree that the threat that the Libertarian ticket really poses right now is against Hillary, that they take votes away from Hillary? I would think that`s a little bit problematic. I think they take votes away from Republicans as well and maybe more so. What do you think?

JOHN STANTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED: I do think they take some votes away from Hillary.

And I think what Governor Weld is going through is what I think a lot of Libertarians and a lot of even people that have been talking about voting for the Green Party are probably starting to go through, now that the election is really sort of on top of us, which is they`re looking at this thing. They`re seeing that the polls are not nearly as wide as I think some people thought they were going to be.

Trump does have a lot of support. And they`re starting to get cold feet, frankly, about voting for a third party, worried that anything that they do could in the end help elect Donald Trump. And I think that`s probably what you`re seeing with him. And it is probably reflective of what a lot of people that aren`t sort of avowed Libertarians who have been talking about saying they`re going to vote for the Libertarian ticket are going through right now

MATTHEWS: Yes. In the world of corrective lenses and views of things, here comes Gary Johnson`s interesting defense for his Aleppo flubs.

Here`s what he told my colleague Andrea Mitchell when she asked him to explain what happened in not knowing some things, in fact, anything about the world.


JOHNSON: You know what? And the fact that somebody can dot the I`s and cross the T`s on a foreign leader or a geographic location then allows them to put our military in harm`s way.

We put our military in this horrible situation where we go in and support regime change. They get involved in civil wars, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people are in a crossfire.


MATTHEWS: Now, Elise, that`s insane. That`s saying, if you know something about the world, you will probably start a war.

And I will give you a contrapositive. W. didn`t know anything about the world, and he got us into the Iraq War. So the idea that ignorance is bliss, that not knowing any of the world leaders at all, not being able to mention them, not knowing anything about Syria and the hell that is going to on there, somehow keeps us out there, is the strangest causality argument I have ever heard.

JORDAN: Well, Gary Johnson`s ignorance on foreign policy and the world around him and the lack of curiosity is why I can`t support him, even though I do consider myself a Libertarian Republican.


JORDAN: And I think it`s also what has given Bill Weld serious pause.

Bill Weld is a serious governor. He`s a serious man. He is a respected lawyer. And he can`t be confident in Gary Johnson right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think we agree on that.

John, last thought for you quickly. But I don`t think that argument that ignorance is bliss, that somehow you can walk through the jungle, and not know there`s any animals there, and somehow you won`t get hurt, is the craziest argument I have ever heard.


MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

STANTON: Yes. Yes. That`s just a crazy thing to say, frankly.


MATTHEWS: OK. We agree.

Thank you, Elise.

And thank you, John.

Up next: just four days to go before the next presidential debate. There`s one coming at us this Saturday. And after the week Trump has had last week, he needs to shake things up fast. Can he mount a comeback in Sunday`s rematch?

I think he has to. I mean, I`m being blunt. He has to, if he wants a chance to win this thing. He has a very outside chance at this point.

The place for politics here, right here. Come back.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would argue that Mike had the single most the decisive victory in the history of vice presidential debates, I believe that. And last night America got to look first hand at my judgment, and that was judgment. You know, you need judgment for people, for deals.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump talking about himself. He was praising and taking credit for what happened last night, in the debate he wasn`t in. But, of course, he names himself as the real winner in the vice presidential debate.

Anyway, Trump`s next big battle is the real one for himself with Hillary Clinton, who beat him last night. It is also a big NFL night with the Packers playing the Giants.

Anyway, as the new national poll shows how much ground he has to make up. Clinton now leads Trump by 10 points in the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll. This is a big one, 46-36. But you can see, there is a lot undecided, 46 and 36 is not enough to cover 100.

What can Trump do with 34 days until the election?

I`m joined by tonight`s roundtable. David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and MSNBC political analyst, Jay Newton-Small is a contributor to "TIME" magazine, and Jonathan Capehart is the opinion writer for "The Washington Post", and an MSNBC contributor.

Jonathan, let`s try to be completely down the middle for a second. We`re looking at this as a contest. Some of the polls show a wide, almost double digit, in this case, double digit spread. But it has wobbled back something much closer to even.

What I noticed today, what is really putting the pressure on Trump that`s coming, if he`s paying attention. Today, he is losing in Ohio. Absolutely have to win Ohio to win an election.


MATTHEWS: He is losing in Florida. Has to win Florida. He`s not even winning the states he has to win, let alone moves up to win the states like Virginia and Pennsylvania which take him to the top. So, just to get back into the running, he needs a couple of good weeks just to get in the running.

CAPEHART: Right. Well, what he needs to do is to get out of his own way.

MATTHEWS: What he`d do?

CAPEHART: The one thing that I was looking forward to is, here you have this big moment. The first debate, and I wondered, OK, we don`t know how it`s going to go down. This is before we watched that amazing debate. But I knew that no matter what happened on debate night, Donald Trump will invariably do something that will stop all over whatever performance he had, whether good or bad.

And that`s exactly what we saw in the tweet storm against the Miss Universe, the horrible things that he said.

MATTHEWS: Three o`clock in the morning.

CAPEHART: Three o`clock in the morning tweets, and all the other things. For a week, we didn`t talk about his horrible debate performance. We talked about his horrible judgment in temperament for a week.

MATTHEWS: Jay, you know, this election has been close. It may well end being close not because of Donald Trump being an overwhelmingly likable person. It`s because, first, whatever reason, he had a good ear for the concerns of half the American people -- illegal immigration, bad trade deals, stupid wars. He seemed to put that perfect storm together and then let it go away.

Instead, he`s gotten himself pulled into a discussion about Alicia Machado, which is a brilliant bit of oppo research by the Clinton people and he got sucked into it.


MATTHEWS: Tweeting about something he should not have even talked about it.

NEWTON-SMALL: I mean, that`s so --

MATTHEWS: Tweeting about something he shouldn`t have even talked about it.

NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, I mean, especially because it had already gone off the news because of the train crash in New Jersey, right? People weren`t talking about it and he brought it back again.

But that was really striking last night with the presidential debate was this was an actual debate about substance, right? They actually talked about policy to some degree. I mean, they weren`t talking about Machado.

MATTHEWS: Especially at the end.

NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, they were talking about, especially at the end.

So, you saw more traditional debate between politicians talking actual substance and that`s sort of what was been missing the last two weeks. It`s been all this sort of craziness that really defines the Trump campaign.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about Trump`s ability to learn. Most people that are in business, it`s -- oh I know what politics is. It`s essentially a learning profession.


MATTHEWS: You have to constantly learn what the people care about, constantly learn new issues, constantly follow the news. You have to always be learning. In all professions, you have to learn. Doctors have to read the manuals. Lawyers have the read law, the court decisions.

In most part, is Trump capable of learning?

CORN: I don`t think so, because you would keep saying that he needs to do this. Every Republican you talk to says they`re waiting for Trump 2.0. And we don`t get past the 1.0 version.

You know, four years, it`s not so much learning, Obama had a terrible first debate performance, and he realized that, you don`t have to learn, but he had to learn but he had to prepare differently. And you get no sense that Donald Trump can do that because ultimately and this goes back to your --

MATTHEWS: If you look at the game --

CORN: It goes back to your issue talking about policy. I think Trump cares about one thing, and that`s Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, then, he should care about winning.

CORN: Well, he does care because Donald Trump is the winner.

MATTHEWS: What`s he going to do to win?

CORN: Be Donald Trump, because people love Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS: At some point, Jonathan, when you look at the game pictures, where you see how badly he did, where you see what Pence was able to do, how you can dodge certain questions. You have to talk about everything the other guy wants to talk about.

CAPEHART: But remember, though, Mike Pence did a phenomenal job for the role that he had. He brought some sanity to an insane ticket. But what did Trump do when he learned that Pence was getting better reviews than him? He got angry. It`s been --

MATTHEWS: How do you know that?

CAPEHART: Well, it`s been reported --

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Who reported it?

CORN: John Harwood.

MATTHEWS: What did he say?

NEWTON-SMALL: That Donald Trump aides told him --

MATTHEWS: One aide said somebody went and talked on three people and said what?

NEWTON-SMALL: He had been grandstanding, he felt grand stand. That Pence had grandstanded.

MATTHEWS: Did that person talk to Trump? See, I don`t know this stuff.


CAPEHART: Well, let me get back to it, to my major point. And that is Donald Trump feels the reason why he is the nominee is because what happened in the primaries got him the nomination and by God, that`s what`s going to get him the presidency. But he has not figured out that is not how you`re going to win the presidency.

NEWTON-SMALL: I wonder, is it almost too late? Because you got almost half the states have started early voting. And every day, thousands of people --

CAPEHART: Well, Martha Raddatz is going to do a great job next Sunday night. And I think Anderson Cooper as well. I think it will be more of a referee discussion that we had last night. I think you need a referee. Just not to necessarily interrupt but to keep it running in some kind of a pendulum so you can follow it.

Just -- last night was very hard to follow. OK? And I`m scribbling notes like mad all the time. I scribbled like ten pages or more of notes. Lots of notes in that first presidential debate. Last night, I couldn`t even scribble notes. It was so cockamamie out there.

Referees, you`ve got to have a referee. You shut up for a while.


MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back --

CAPEHART: Do you think that`s going to happen on Sunday?

CORN: Not with Trump.

MATTHEWS: It`s not going to help Trump if you can`t understand him.

CORN: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, he`s not going to bully his way to this one.

The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, they`re going to tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Sunday`s a big day, as I said, here on MSNBC. It`s the second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We`re going to have all-day coverage that day and at 7:00 Eastern, I`ll be out in St. Louis for the debate and I`ll be joined from New York by Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow. The debate begins at 9:00 Eastern on Sunday, and we`ll have post-game coverage live from St. Louis. So, that`s why I`m tired, 2:00 in the morning.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Of course, David, tell me something I don`t know, quickly.

CORN: Last night, during the debate, the Trump campaign put out a press release here`s his plan for defeating ISIS -- work with allies and have more air strikes. That`s Obama`s plan, no difference.


NEWTON-SMALL: "Time" and Survey Monkey came out with a poll showing that women are much more scared about the election than men, 53 to 37 percent, and that`s really bad for Trump because Trump is trying to win women and they`re afraid of him.

MATTHEWS: Why are women afraid of Trump?

NEWTON-SMALL: Women are afraid of Trump because they don`t know that he`s trustworthy to be president yet.

CAPEHART: Target question.

Senator McCain after the debate last night celebrated with a bourbon on the rocks, but he didn`t too much because he had two events after the debate. Didn`t get home until around 2:00 a.m.

CORN: Were you with him?

CAPEHART: No. But I`ve got real good sources.


MATTHEWS: I wasn`t home until 2:00. Is that as exciting as politics get these days?


MATTHEWS: Not until 3:00. Is that exciting?

David Corn, Jay Newton-Small and Jonathan Capehart.

When we return, my election diary for tonight, the 5th of October. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Election diary Wednesday, October 5th, 2016.

I believe today is the turn in the road in this presidential election. After last night`s solid work by Mike Pence, the big lift now is for Trump himself. He needs to use the break Pence gave him last night and get serious. Hillary Clinton learned last night that it`s not enough to jab at Trump, not enough to score points off of her opponent`s off-putting behavior, she herself needs to climb the stair of greatness, needs to show herself as a superior candidate, not simply superior to Trump.

I say this because the way the race is going now, Trump will be fortunate to put in a strong showing, to win states like Ohio, Florida, North Carolina. He runs a real risk now of winning none of them, finishing a dreadful number of electoral votes behind his rival, a humiliating number of electoral votes. This means that Clinton -- Hillary Clinton is in a position to win a real mandate, winning most of the major states, winning most of the truly contested states and ending up with the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.

So, the race now balances between a big victory for Hillary Clinton and a smaller one. For Donald Trump, it`s the balance between a nice try and a lifetime embarrassment. To change this situation, Trump will need to change his behavior from the erratic to the deadly serious, back from the crazy to the three big issues that got him this far, trade, immigration and bad wars.

To exploit the current trend, which he can do more easily, Hillary Clinton needs to talk about the future and how she will make the big changes America wants. A country focused not on division but on constructing a bigger American future. Not simply getting along together, but building something together.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.